Schumer: Trump impeachment trial to begin week of Feb. 8
WASHINGTON (AP) — Opening arguments in the Senate impeachment trial for Donald Trump over the Capitol riot will begin the week of Feb. 8, the first time a former president will face such charges after leaving office.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the schedule Friday evening after reaching an agreement with Republicans, who had pushed for a delay to give Trump a chance to organize his legal team and prepare a defence on the sole charge of incitement of insurrection.
The February start date also allows the Senate more time to confirm President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominations and consider his proposed $1.9 trillion COVID relief package — top priorities of the new White House agenda that could become stalled during trial proceedings.
“We all want to put this awful chapter in our nation’s history behind us,” Schumer said about the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol siege by a mob of pro-Trump supporters.
“But healing and unity will only come if there is truth and accountability. And that is what this trial will provide.”
Wuhan returns to normal as world still battling pandemic
WUHAN, China (AP) — A year ago, a notice sent to smartphones in Wuhan at 2 a.m. announced the world’s first coronavirus lockdown that would last 76 days.
Early Saturday morning, residents in the central Chinese city where the virus was first detected were jogging and practicing tai chi in a fog-shrouded park beside the mighty Yangtze River.
Life has largely returned to normal in the city of 11 million, even as the rest of the world grapples with the spread of the virus’ more contagious variants. Efforts to vaccinate people for COVID-19 have been frustrated by disarray and limited supplies in some places. The scourge has killed over 2 million people worldwide.
Traffic was light in Wuhan but there was no sign of the barriers that a year ago isolated neighbourhoods, prevented movement around the city and confined people to their housing compounds and even apartments.
Wuhan accounted for the bulk of China’s 4,635 deaths from COVID-19, a number that has largely stayed static for months. The city has been largely free of further outbreaks since the lockdown was lifted on April 8, but questions persist as to where the virus originated and whether Wuhan and Chinese authorities acted fast enough and with sufficient transparency to allow the world to prepare for a pandemic that has sickened more than 98 million.
Biden’s choice on econ aid: Deal with GOP or go for it all
WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden’s ambitious opening bid, his $1.9 trillion American Rescue economic package, will test the new president’s relationship with Congress and force a crucial choice between his policy vision and a desire for bipartisan unity.
Biden became president this week with the pandemic having already forced Congress to approve $4 trillion in aid, including $900 billion just last month. And those efforts have politically exhausted Republican lawmakers, particularly conservatives who are panning the new proposal as an expensive, unworkable liberal wish-list.
Yet, Democrats, now with control of the House, Senate and White House, want the new president to deliver ever more sweeping aid and economic change.
On Friday, Biden took a few beginning steps, signing executive orders at the White House. But he also declared a need to do much more and quickly, saying that even with decisive action the nation is unlikely to stop the pandemic in the next several months and well over 600,000 could die.
“The bottom line is this: We are in a national emergency. We need to act like we’re in a national emergency,” he said. “So we got to move with everything we got. We’ve got to do it together. I don’t believe Democrats or Republicans are going hungry and losing jobs, I believe, Americans are going hungry and losing jobs.”
For 1st Black Pentagon chief, racism challenge is personal
WASHINGTON (AP) —
Newly confirmed Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin will have to contend not only with a world of security threats and a massive military bureaucracy, but also with a challenge that hits closer to home: rooting out racism and extremism in the ranks.
Austin took office Friday as the first Black defence chief, in the wake of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, where retired and current military members were among the rioters touting far-right conspiracies.
The retired four-star Army general told senators this week that the Pentagon’s job is to “keep America safe from our enemies. But we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks.”
Ridding the military of racists isn’t his only priority. Austin, who was confirmed in a 93-2 vote, has made clear that accelerating delivery of coronavirus vaccines will get his early attention.
Thousands of Hong Kongers locked down to contain coronavirus
HONG KONG (AP) — Thousands of Hong Kong residents were locked down Saturday in an unprecedented move to contain a worsening outbreak in the city, authorities said.
Hong Kong has been grappling to contain a fresh wave of the coronavirus since November. Over 4,300 cases have been recorded in the last two months, making up nearly 40% of the city’s total.
Coronavirus cases in Hong Kong’s Yau Tsim Mong district – a working-class neighbourhood with old buildings and subdivided flats – represent about half of infections in the past week.
Sewage testing in the area picked up more concentrated traces of the virus, prompting concerns that poorly built plumbing systems and a lack of ventilation in subdivided units may present a possible path for the virus to spread.
Authorities said in a statement Saturday that an area comprising 16 buildings in Yau Tsim Mong will be locked down until all residents have been tested. Residents will not be allowed to leave their homes until they have received their test results to prevent cross-infection.
VIRUS TODAY: Barriers slow efforts to vaccinate immigrants
Here’s what’s happening Friday with the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.:
THREE THINGS TO KNOW TODAY
— Advocacy groups are warning that immigrants in the U.S. may be some of the most difficult people to reach during the national drive to vaccinate the population against the virus. Some immigrants in the country illegally fear that information taken during vaccinations could be turned over to authorities and so may not seek out vaccines, while those who speak little or no English may find it difficult to access shots.
— A group of fortunate Americans are getting pushed to the front of the line to get their COVID-19 vaccines as clinics scramble to get rid of extra, perishable doses by the end of the day. Some of those getting earlier than expected access just happen to be near a clinic at closing time, but clinic workers also go out looking for willing recipients. Other clinics are setting up lotteries to dispense their extra shots because the demand is so great. The process has emerged as one of the most unusual, and to some unseemly, quirks in the vaccination rollout.
— The White House is following public health guidelines for preventing the coronavirus under President Joe Biden. Testing wristbands are in. Mask-wearing is mandatory. Desks are socially distanced. While the Trump administration was known for ignoring infection-control guidance, the Biden team has made a point of adhering to the same advice that federal health officials are counselling Americans to follow.
Bus heading to Grand Canyon rolls over; 1 dead, 2 critical
PHOENIX (AP) — A Las Vegas-based tour bus heading to the Grand Canyon rolled over in northwestern Arizona on Friday, killing one person and critically injuring two others, authorities said.
A spokeswoman for the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office said the cause of the Friday afternoon wreck was not yet known, but a fire official who responded said speed appeared to be a factor. No other vehicles were involved.
“It was a heavily damaged bus. He slid down the road quite a ways, so there was a lot of wreckage,” said Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District Chief Tim Bonney. “Just to put it in perspective, on a scale of zero to 10, an eight.”
None of the passengers was ejected from the vehicle but they were all in shock, Bonney said.
“A lot of them were saying the bus driver was driving at a high rate of speed,” he said.
Florida governor walks back claim over 1 millionth shot
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had a made-for-TV moment: A 100-year-old World War II veteran getting a vaccine against the coronavirus. “An American hero,” the governor proclaimed Friday, would be the 1 millionth senior in his state to get a lifesaving shot in the arm.
As it turned out, the assertion was premature, and the Republican governor later walked back the claim, saying instead that the injection was symbolic of the state being on track to hit 1 million doses soon.
State officials acknowledged that it could take a few more days to reach the milestone. DeSantis’ own health department reported that, as of Thursday, fewer than 840,000 seniors had received the shot.
The governor’s misstep came as Florida’s congressional Democrats, in a letter to DeSantis, expressed “serious concerns with the state’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine,” even as DeSantis has barnstormed the state in recent days to announce the expansion of vaccination sites.
The Democrats said more than 1 million unused vaccines were “on hold” in Florida, suggesting the state was not expeditiously administering them.
Guard in DC forced to sleep in garages, sparking outcry
WASHINGTON (AP) — Images of National Guard soldiers camped in a cold parking garage after being sent to protect Washington sparked new calls Friday for investigations of the U.S. Capitol Police, now facing allegations that the agency evicted troops sent to help after its failure to stop rioting mobs two weeks ago.
President Joe Biden expressed his “dismay” Friday morning to Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard, about how the troops had been treated, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. Members of both parties were irate about reports that Guardsmen were forced to take rest breaks outside the Capitol building. About 25,000 Guard members from across the country deployed to help secure President Joe Biden’s inauguration, which went off with only a handful of minor arrests.
Psaki said the president thanked Hokanson and the Guard for their help the last few weeks and offered his assistance if Hokanson needed anything. First lady Jill Biden visited Guard troops outside the Capitol on Friday, bringing them cookies and thanking them for protecting her family. She noted that the Bidens’ late son, Beau, served in the Delaware Army National Guard.
A jittery Washington had requested aid following the riot where police were badly outnumbered, locking down the nation’s capital with soldiers, police and barricades. Lawmakers and Biden took pains to thank security forces for their effort. All 25,000 Guard members were vetted by the FBI over concerns of an insider attack, and a dozen were removed from their posts including two who made extremist statements about the inauguration.
Both the Guard and Capitol Police issued a joint statement Friday afternoon saying they have now co-ordinated to establish “appropriate spaces” within Congressional buildings for on-duty breaks. The statement noted that off-duty troops have hotel rooms or “other comfortable accommodations.”
Hank Aaron, baseball’s one-time home run king, dies at 86
ATLANTA (AP) — His name is all over the baseball record book and, indeed, Hank Aaron could do it all.
Sure, he’s remembered mostly for dethroning the Babe to become baseball’s home run king on the way to 755, but don’t forget about the .300 average, or the graceful way he fielded his position, or the deceiving speed he showed on the basepaths.
Yet, when talking about the true measure of the man, there was far more to “Hammerin’ Hank” than his brilliance between the lines.
Exuding grace and dignity, Aaron spoke bluntly but never bitterly on the many hardships thrown his way — from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the ugly, racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records.
He wasn’t hesitant about speaking out on the issues of the day, whether it was bemoaning the lack of Blacks in management positions, or lobbying against putting Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame, or calling on those involved in the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal to be tossed from the game for good.
The Associated Press